Marriage Counseling for Infidelity Recovery
“Infidelity,” according to Wikipedia, is a breach of faith, and occurs in a number of contexts. It does not depend on the presence of sexual behavior. Even within a close relationship, people might have very different ideas and perceptions of infidelity. Fidelity refers to the accuracy and integrity of self-representation, honesty or candor in an intimate, committed relationship.
What does “Infidelity” mean
“Marriage,” usually means that you trust someone you love to care about you, be true to you, to have integrity within your relationship, and to put the couple relationship above all other relationships. When that trust is broken you may feel betrayed, rejected, uncared about, and unloved. Broken trust is extremely hard to heal.
Having relationship with another person that takes your attention, time, energy, finances, or caring away from your primary partner is then an affair.
To heal broken trust it takes time. It takes both partners actively working on whatever is needed. It take the partner who broke the trust looking at the why and taking steps to make sure there is not another incident. The partner who was “cheated” on may have for a while, what may seem, extremely tight boundaries for the other partner.
There are many aspects to personal recovering from a breach of trust. Our own personal history is a basis for how well we will recover. If we were abused, betrayed, abandoned, neglected, or had our trust betrayed in our growing up years and have not dealt with or done healing around this issue, it will be more difficult to recover from betrayal in an adult relationship. Our own health, mental and emotional, will determine our ability to move on. Our personality will color our recovery. No one can give you a magic potion or quick answer to recovery. You personally will have to take it step by step honoring your own needs and strengths and weaknesses. If your partner wants to heal the relationship, you can work together and communicate effectively to help you work through to the other side.
Relationship recovery from infidelity can be successful. Success will be improved by professional help and suggestions. Counseling is important to, not only have a third objective person, but to get tools for communication, resolution of issues, exploring family patterns, exploring personal needs, and ways to establish personal rights and boundaries. Committed relationships are damaged when infidelity occurs. Sometimes this damage is irreparable. Most of the time, if both partners want recovery, the relationship can actually be stronger and more fulfilling after an affair has happened.
An affair can be like a small heart attack. When a person has a small heart attack, they go for professional help. They usually then begin to pay attention, take care of themselves, and use the tools give by the professional. They then become stronger and healthier avoiding a massage and fatal heart attack. An affair can be looked on in the same way. If both partners want the relationship to continue they can actually make it stronger and better. It takes communication, commitment, time, effort, energy, and attention.
Obviously the first step to recovery from infidelity if finding out there was an affair. Honesty is imperative here. By that I mean admitting there was a breach of trust, a broken promise, a lack of integrity. In this first step the hurt and pain being felt by the partner who was cheated on needs to be validated and heard. The errant partner needs to take the lumps and say they are “sorry” if that is true. Time is needed here. Only the hurt partner can determine how much. The partner who cheated must take responsibility for the behavior and the decision to step out of the agreed trust, even though they may feel there are “reasons” for the betrayal.
Communication is the next step and will help both partners communicate their feeling and needs. The hurt partner can express themselves and tell the cheating partner how they are feeling without harming the relationship further. The cheating partner can help the hurt partner feel heard and validate the pain. I have submitted an article at this site on Communication for Couples. It contains a concise communication format from my Program for Relationship Healing and Enhancement. You can use the format form the article to help you with your communication when you are working on the healing from Infidelity.
The way we express or do not express out anger can interfere with our relationship health and happiness. Anger is “just” an emotion. It feels bad, but it is not bad. What we do with our anger is what either works for us or gets us in trouble. We can be angry with someone and still love him or her. Again, I have submitted an Article on the Website on Seven Steps to Anger Expression. This is a short version of my anger management program. It will help you with expressing the anger about your relationship problems, the infidelity, and any other anger issues you need to express.
Personal Needs and Rights
Within a relationship each partner has personal rights. A healthy relationship allows each partner to be an individual. They are together because they want to be together not because they need to be together. Each partner has their own personal boundaries and the right to respect and privacy. In a healthy relationship trust is automatic. Sometimes, what gets in the way of our ability to trust and to be a part of a healthy relationship is our pattern of distorted thinking, irrational ideas, or mistaken assumptions. We may assume we do not have rights. We may think it is selfish to put our needs first or our views should be respected. We may think it bad to ever make a mistake. We may feel we must always be flexible and consistent and logical. We may feel our emotions are not as important as our partners. These are all mistaken assumptions.
The belief -someone has to be right and someone wrong is a big fallacy. Two people can disagree and both be right. Believing those who love you can automatically know what you want or need is definitely a distorted thinking form. Not many of us are mind readers. If you want your needs met and your wishes fulfilled, you need to communicate clearly those needs and wishes.
If you come from an abusive family of origin, control may be very important to you. Sometimes being abused means the victim is not in control of even their own body. As these abused people become adults “control” may be primary. Reviewing what we really have control over is one tool to help us feel more in control of our lives. Ultimately the only thing we have true control of is ourselves. Control over others is not really possible. We can know the other persons triggers and buttons….but they are the ones to decide if they feel a certain way or if they will act the way we want or not. When we control what is in our world it is healthy. So, if we say in my world infidelity does not happen. That is not “controlling” because the partner has the right to refuse to be in your world if they need to have other partners. They can choose to be in your world or not. You are not controlling them only what happens in your world.
Personal boundaries are sometimes hard to comprehend. Sometimes we have no idea what boundaries we “should” have or what boundaries we want. Only you can make this decision. Personal boundaries are your personal rules about other people being with you or in your personal “world.” One personal boundary might be – people in my world do not call others names or my personal boundary is I don't stay in a relationship that is not nurturing for me.
A personality test tells you how your choose to be in the world. Your personality profile will change over time because you will change over time. A test I recommend is the Kiersey Sorter.
Activities to increase emotional intimacy
These exercises are to encourage each partner to increase his or her ability to find, give, and enjoy pleasure. People today often have “scurvy of the soul.” Our own soul is not nurtured and fulfilled. We may have a tendency to do what society or culture tells us will bring us happiness or joy. We often pay no attention to our own ability to enjoy pleasure and don't take the time to learn how to give pleasure. We may not even know what pleasure” means for ourselves. If we ignore pleasure, we are not fully developed emotionally. Pleasure is a wonderful ingredient in a healthy relationship.
Sacred Space Talking Together
This exercise will introduce the procedure of creating safe sacred space. Both partners will decide on a space in your home that will be private and uninterrupted for about an hour. Use scarves, or something like scarves, and make a border or boundary around the area. It can be on the living room floor with pillows to sit on, or in the bedroom, or on a bed. You will be sitting facing each other. When the boundary has been established and the ambiance is soft and quiet, with soft lights and soft music. Both partners will then remove from the sacred space the attributes you do not want in your communication space. This space will be a space to enjoy compassion and caring with each other. Removal suggestions; Negativity, judging, aggression, pessimism, criticism, etc….all the negative attitudes you do not want in your sacred space. Add in suggestions; Acceptance, love, caring, compassion, gentleness, optimism, love…etc.
This is now your relationship/couples sacred safe space. Sit facing each other with knees together, or with one partner having their legs over the other's legs. Take a few deep breaths together and spend a few moments in quiet just BEING together. Here are some suggestions on “talking” subjects.
Talking together suggestions.
1. What is your greatest wish for this relationship?
2. One thing you are willing to do to make your wish
3. Tell your partner how you would like them to help you
make your wish come true.
4. Something you are afraid to talk about-just the subject
if you are still not willing to actually talk” about it.
5. Make an appointment to revisit the subject in 4.
6. Tell your partner how you like to be touched.
7. Share a fantasy.
8. Share your sexual turn-ons and turn-offs.
9. Anything else you would like to share.
Each partner will take a turn. Decide who will be first and who second. Each partner will take about five minutes talking about each subject. Take more time if needed. No issues to be worked through here, only heart shares.
While one partner is sharing the listening partner just listens. When the speaker is through the listener can say something like “thank you for sharing” or “I am honored to know that” make it your words. That is IT, no other comment needed, only acknowledgment that you heard your partner. This is emotional intimacy…this sharing is from your heart. This may be hard to do if you are feeling untrusting, or unworthy.
In this exercise partners will lay together in the spoon position. Female in front. The Man is in charge of creating a safe space for his partner and the Woman is in charge of the pace. Woman will breathe loud enough for her partner to hear. He will then coordinate his breathing with hers. Spend about 15-20 minutes with this exercise. This can be done just before you go to sleep or can be used to connect and be on the same wavelength before a sexual time. Again, this is not a timed event. Keep it about breathing-not touching. Take as much time as you like. This exercise increases emotional intimacy and is not meant to be physical intimacy or sexual. It also nurtures trust in your relationship. This exercise helps both partners to “trust” the other cares enough to just be together. The partner cares about you enough to notice your breathing or breathe with you. Just BE together-close out the world for a few moments and sink into each other.
In this exercise you will sit as you were for the communication exercise. Create a quiet space, perhaps your sacred safe space if you have time. Sit face to face. In this space, put your right hands on each other's heart. Look deep into each other's eyes. Spend a few minutes just being together. Coordinating your breathing will increase the intimacy of this exercise. Now spend about five minutes each saying the following;
-What I love about you ___________
-What I appreciate about you ___________
-What I admire about you _____________
-or any other comment you would like to add.
The partner doing the listening-just listens. The listening partner checks in with themselves-notice what you are feeling? Are you able to let these messages into your heart? When partner one is finished, partner two responds with “thank you” or something else appropriate. Again, no fixing, Partner two now has a turn. Take your time. Add whatever you would like. This is your appreciation admiration time. End with a hug…..and take your This exercise should be done each day. Maybe before bedtime or to get you started in the morning. What a wonderful way to start the day by being appreciated and admired.
Hot Monogamy can happen. I give my clients a “four hour Homework” assignment when they are ready to really cement their relationship and increase emotional and physical intimacy.
Communicate, Care, Be intimate, Spend time creating your
relationship, it doesn't grow all alone, Enjoy, Pleasure, Be Joyful .
Remember sometimes Infidelity can be like a small heart attack. You can heal and make your relationship stronger better and full of joy.
About The Author
Yvonne Sinclair M.A.
Masters in Counseling Psychology
Director of Lincoln Counseling Center, Lincoln, CA
Author of the Complete Relationship Healing and Enhancement Program and Anger Management Program for Adults, Children, Parents, and Teens.
Yvonne Sinclair M.A. has been counseling couples, families, individuals, and children, facilitating counseling groups and workshops, and teaching classes on counseling and relationship issues since 1993.
Licensed Marriage Family and Child Counselor State of California